5 Best Roof Racks and Roof Rails in 2022 -2023August 20, 2022
If you want to increase the cargo capacity of your vehicle, the best roof racks, cross bars, and roof rails should be at the top of your list. You can store any odd-shaped cargo that won’t fit inside—or that’s dirty and you don’t want inside—up and out of the way while still having full interior space. They can be used to secure a weatherproof cargo carrier (see below) or as a rooftop attachment for kayaks, surfboards, snowboards, skis, fishing rods, bicycles, or just about anything else you can think of.
Most of the time, we use a set of car roof bars for trips to the home improvement store. Even a large SUV won’t fit an eight-foot piece of lumber or pipe, and even if it does, you don’t want to rip up your interior or have a large, heavy, unsecured object pointing at your windshield.
The best roof racks and rails are easily removable, and you should remove them when not in use, as they will cost you a few MPG in wind resistance. Modern aero bars provide significantly less wind resistance than square or even round bars, but the best areo bars are more expensive. They also have quick-release towers that attach semi-permanently to attachment points built into the roof of your car.
How they were tested
Roof bars for modern cars are generally of two types. The first is intended to clamp onto existing rails that run lengthwise above the doors on estate and SUV-type vehicles.
The alternatives are more difficult to install because they must be mounted on the roof without rails and generally clamp around the door shuts or screw into fixtures on the car’s frame. We chose the latter for this year’s test, mounting them on a 2017 Nissan Qashqai.
Lastly, we tested for wind noise at highway speeds after installing the bars. We also gave points for removal ease, light weight, and any built-in security features. Finally, we looked up prices online to determine the value. Each of the seven has a maximum load capacity of 75kg.
Best Roof Racks and Roof Rails 2022 – 2023
- Roof Rack Front Runner Slimline II
- Aerodynamic Yakima JetStream Crossbars
- Set of CargoLoc Aluminum Roof Top Crossbars
- Curt Roof Rack Cargo Basket Universal Steel
- Yakima Roof Rack Crossbars with Round Bars
1. Roof Rack Front Runner Slimline II
Best Roof Rack for Heavy Duty Vehicles
We’ve long been fans of Front Runner Outfitters, particularly their roof rack kits. The Slimline II is almost perfect. The streamlined silhouette complements almost any vehicle without altering the overall appearance or aerodynamics. However, its versatility and usability are what make it most appealing. With Front Runners’ extensive catalog of bolt-on accessories, it’s easier than ever to equip your vehicle with whatever tool you require for your next adventure. Axes, shovels, jerrycans, outdoor prep tables, dutch ovens, and other tools can all be mounted. The Slimline II’s horizontal slat design also makes it an ideal base for easily mounting a rooftop tent.
2. Aerodynamic Yakima JetStream Crossbars
Crossbars with the Best Aerodynamics
Yakima’s JetStream crossbars are hard to beat for a more general rooftop buildout. They limit drag and reduce wind noise, especially at highway speeds, thanks to their lightweight aluminum construction and sleek, tapered design. They also work well with various Yakima mounts and are available in a variety of colors and sizes to best match your vehicle.
3. Set of CargoLoc Aluminum Roof Top Crossbars
Best Roof Rack on a Budget
The simplicity of CargoLoc’s Aluminum Crossbar set is difficult to beat. As long as your vehicle has raised roof rails (which most modern SUVs do), these simply clip on and you’re done — no tools required. You can then lash or attach almost any light or moderate load to your roof. A keyed locking system also ensures that no one tries to steal them. The best part, however, is the low cost: Approximately $50 per pair.
4. Curt Roof Rack Cargo Basket Universal Steel
Best Budget Cargo Basket Curt has a solid reputation for simple, long-lasting products that are reasonably priced. The 18115 Universal Black Steel Cargo Basket from the company is no exception. It adds 11 square feet of carrying space to your vehicle’s roof and measures 42 inches by 37 inches. An optional extension accessory increases capacity even further. The four-inch high sides ensure that your gear stays put for the long haul.
5. Yakima Roof Rack Crossbars with Round Bars
Roof Racks for Sedans
Most sedan drivers aren’t interested in strapping two weeks of expedition gear to the roof of their Audi A4. Yakima’s Round Bar Crossbars are ideal for sedans and other small cars hauling lighter loads. They’re straightforward, streamlined, and simple to set up. Plus, at just over $100, they’re affordable for most people.
Roof Rails and Roof Racks: Everything You Need to Know
Roof rails and roof racks are almost an essential accessory for your vehicle if you are an outdoor enthusiast or frequently travel with sports equipment. You’ll probably need more cargo space for all your gear, but there are a lot of factors to consider when shopping for roof rails and roof racks. To begin, your vehicle will limit the type of accessory you can use. Roof rails are installed by the automaker on some vehicles right from the factory, but roof rails are not compatible with all vehicles.
A good general rule is to look at your vehicle’s roof and see if there are two rubber or plastic strips. If there are, you can probably install roof rails on your vehicle. However, if your vehicle does not come standard with those strips, you will need to look for aftermarket options that can be installed on your vehicle’s roof.
It will depend on whether you choose roof rails or a roof rack when it comes to installation. Installing either product at home is possible, but installing roof rails generally necessitates the use of power tools, whereas most roof racks do not. If you are unfamiliar with power tools, it is strongly advised that you hire a professional to install aftermarket roof rails.
What Exactly Are Roof Rails?
Roof rails are attached to your car and run the length of it, not across it. Everything else hooks onto these, and the terms “cross bars” and “roof racks” are frequently used interchangeably, despite the fact that the category of things called roof racks is broader.
After learning the distinctions between roof rails and roof racks, we’ll look at the advantages of using roof rails. Roof rails serve as a foundation for your roof rack installation and can help you carry cargo or sporting equipment. Other advantages of mounted roof rails include:
- It acts as a foundation for various roof racks or roof cargo boxes.
- Can be used on a variety of vehicles such as sedans, hatchbacks, SUVs, and even some vans.
- Can aid in the transportation of sporting equipment such as skis, snowboards, bikes, kayaks, and more.
- They are strong because they are usually screwed to the top of the car.
- Stealing is difficult.
- Can also be used as a foundation for aluminum or steel crossbars.
What are Roof Racks and Cross Bars?
Cross bars and Roof racks are terms that are frequently used interchangeably, but while cross bars are exactly what they sound like, bars that run from one side of your roof to the other, roof rack can refer to a variety of things.
Roof racks are typically installed on top of roof rails or crossbars and serve as a mounting point for gear such as bikes or skis. Roof racks are usually the best option for people who don’t have enough space in their car to carry sports equipment. Here are some additional advantages of roof racks:
- Excellent for transporting large outdoor equipment such as bikes and skis.
- Roof racks, unlike hitch-mounted racks, usually allow easy access to the trunk.
- Capable of securing sporting equipment to a rack to prevent theft
- The ability to add cargo boxes increases cargo transportation versatility.
- When not in use, it can be easily removed and stored.
- Transports outdoor equipment in the summer and winter.
How to Select the Best Roof Rails for Your Classic Car
If you’re looking for roof rails, you might notice that there are a few different options on the market. Roof rails are generally more restrictive than roof racks, so it’s important to consider the possibilities your car’s roof may offer:
- Roof rails that are solid
- Rails with fixed points
- Plain roof
- Roof rails that are raised
Solid roof rails are the most durable option because there is no gap between the car and the rail. In theory, this means they can support more weight (though your car’s roof may not). However, in terms of functionality, they are not that different from any other type of rail, but they do have a sleek design, so you’ll often find them on today’s modern cars.
Raised roof rails have a slimmer profile and a space between them and the vehicle. These aren’t as common these days, but they can still be found on wagons. They operate on the same principles as other roof rails in terms of functionality.
Fixed point roof rails are commonly found on many cars, regardless of size, and are typically covered by plastic, rubber, or a metal strip. Roof rails installed on fixed point rails are the most difficult to install.
A few vehicles have a plain roof, which means no roof rails, raised roof rails, or fixed points. It’s a valid question whether you can add a roof rack to a vehicle with a flat roof, and the good news is that you can—you just need to install crossbar-style raised bars or racks on the door jamb.
Choosing the best roof rails is frequently determined by what fits. Some cars come standard with roof rails, while others require you to add your own, or you may even want to replace the factory-mounted units.